Monday, April 27, 2009

Misterious Elgygytgyn Lake, Central Chukotka

Elgygytgyn Lake is the most interesting water body of the North-Eastern Asia. Imagine treeless tundra of Central Chukotka (68°N) with sloping mountains. Right at the divide between the Arctic Ocean (Chaun River) and Pacific Ocean (Anadyr River) these mountains form a perfect ring 17 km across.
This hollow has space origin: it was formed by an impact of a huge meteorite 3.5 million years ago. Elgygytgyn is considered the biggest of the young meteorite craters on the Earth surface. About a half of the surface of this ring is filled by water – by a round lake 12 km across and up to 180 m deep.
Elgygytgyn Lake on June 30, 1986
The mountains around the lake are populated by the biggest population of wild caribou in Chukotka
The lake is extremely cold – the temperature near the bottom is never above 2,5-3ÂșC, and on the surface it is always near freezing. Elgygytygn Lake is too cold for most fish species to survive; it is inhabited by 3 species of charr. Charr community of the lake is represented by a big predator, Boganid charr, and two endemic small species, feeding on zooplankton – small-mouth charr and long-fin charr.
llong-fin charr - Salvethymus svetovidovi (on top)
small-mouth charr - Salvelinus elgyticus
Boganid charr - Salvelinus boganidae
The weight of the biggest specimens of Boganid charr in the Elgygytgyn Lake can be about 15 kg, my own record fish was 9 kg. Open-water tackle can be used from mid June (in holes near the mouth of tributaries) till the freezing of the lake (September).

Boganid charr in spawning colors

June 1986. Two charrs caught in the hole along the bank. Record 9 kg fish caught through the ice.
Long-fin charr belongs to new genus of Salmonids, discovered in 1985. Scientific name of the genera – Salvethymus - was created out of the words Salvelinus (charr) and Thymallus (grayling). At first sight this fish looks similar to both charr and grayling. The genus has only one species, kindred to charrs. Long-fin charr is ancient fish with many primitive features. It is considered to be close to ancestor of all charrs. Long-fin charr are slow-growing fish: the biggest specimen was 30 cm long; its age was 30 years!
Long-fin charr (male in spawning colors) Long-fin charr in the hole in the ice

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A little about the blog author

Mikhail Skopets with 130 cm (52") Siberian taimen landed with a fly in the Tugur River
I was born in 1954 in Ekaterinburg, USSR. This is a big city in the Ural mountains, which was at that time called Sverdlovsk. From 1977 till 2007 I was living in the Russian Far East, in the city of Magadan on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. Now I am living in Khabarovsk, Russia (Lower Amur River). For my whole life (from the age of 5) I was devoted to fishing. First it was bobber fishing in still water, later - spin-fishing for Northern pike and yellow perch. When I was 20, I have first tried grayling fishing in taiga rivers of the Urals. This was my first meeting with grayling and artificial flies - my two loves for the rest of my life. It was when I have started to tie my own flies, to invent new fly patterns. At that time my interest to learn flyfishing came to nothing due to the absence of the fly-tackle in the stores at that time. From my childhood I was reading everything about fishing and traveling. The best writers at that time for me were London, Hemingway, Fedoseev, Arsenyev, Kuvaev...

Magadan (pop. 90,000) from Nagaeva Bay, Sea of Okhotsk

I was graduated from the Biology department of the Ural State University in 1977. At that time I have decided to find me place to live as far north and east as possible. Russian Far East for Russia is the same as Alaska for Americans - the "last frontier". I have succeeded to organize an official invitation from the Institute of Biological Problems of the North (Rus. Acad. Sci.) - and I still work in this research institute. I am a fish biologist (Ph.D. in fish biology). Every summer and fall I spend in expeditions. I used to work in different regions of the Russian Far East: Chukotka and Kamchatka, Yakutia and Magadan region, Primorie and Khabarovsk region, Amurski region, Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. The fish which I like the most is grayling, even though I used to work with other Salmonid fish: Pacific salmon, steelhead, charr and taimen. When I first came to Magadan, I was an excitable spin-fisherman. I have liked other kinds of fishing as well - drift-fishing with salmon eggs, plannerboard with flies, ice-fishing with lures or bait. Abundance of fish was gradually diminishing my interest to fishing - catching fish was becoming too easy. Besides that, use of bait of treble hooks do not suite catch-and-release. In an old magazine I've found the know-how of silk fly-line. Another line I've made out of plastic covering of electric wiring. My first rod and reel were self-made as well. This tackle was rather clumsy, but suitable for practical fishing. I was learning to cast from the magazine articles and English books. With these primitive fly-tackle I've landed several salmon, dozens of charr and lots of grayling.

Self-portret from underwater: this is how the fish see us...

Every summer since 1992 I was working as a guide with fishermen from Western Europe and US; many of them were high class fly-fishermen. In every journey I was doing my job and at the same time learning: learning from the fishermen and from the nature. Russian Far East is true "last frontier" for flyfishermen - many of our sportfish were never caught with flies before. In literature there is no information on such species as Sakhalin taimen, cherry salmon, whitespotted charr - or on diverse predators from the huge Amur River. When starting to "survey" these species I had to invent new flies and fishing tactics. From that time I've abandoned the spinning gear. Drift-tackle I am using only in winter, when it is too cold to flyfish. My recent passion is photography, including underwater photography in lakes and rivers.

From 1998 I am regularily writing for the Russian sport-fishing magazines, mostly for Rybolov-Elite (Elite Fisherman) & for the only Russian flyfishing magazine Nakhlyst (Flyfishing). In 2003-2004 I was at the editorial board of Nakhlyst. By 2009 I had publishes over 70 popular articles. In 1990 I have published my first book on sport-fishing (20,000 copies printed in Russian). Recently I have self-published a book on fly-fishing in the Russian Far East. It is 304 pages colored book, which was printed in Russian in March 2007 (2,000 copies).

From 1994 till 2005 I was working with the Wild Salmon Center . Now I am free-lance journalist, writing for sportfishing and outdoor magazines, mostly Russian ones. Besides that, I take part in environmental projects of different type, including the ones in the field of industrial ecology. I continue working with fly-fishermen, collaborate with sportfishing clubs of the Russian Far East, take part in casting and fly-tying training programs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taimen fishing, Bichi River (tributary to the Lower Amur River)

Bichi is 300 km long, it is left tributary to the great Amur River. The stream is famous by its trophy Siberian taimen.
Bichi River is rather slow, and has clear colored water.
Local fishermen use old-style spinning gear with thick mono line
The river has several log-jams, some of which exist for many years
Group of fishermen is doing portage around the unpassable log-jam This 16 kg taimen I have landed with a streamer (Articilated Leach type, see below)
The fish was caught for the edge of the upper jaw bone pierced by the hook
Black Articulated Leech (String Leech) on 2/0 or 3/0 hook is one of the most efficient flies for both taimen species, Siberian & sea-run
Articulated Sculpin is taimen fly based on the design of String Leech
Articulated Grayling - another fly with weighted head and big hook on a string
Articulated Mouse - surface fly with a hook in a loop of 7x7 steel tippet material. I have landed several taimen with this fly equipped with 3/0 Octopus hook. 37 kg taimen, caught in the Bichi River in October 2004 by Oleg Zakrzhevski

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Anyui River - first fiishing with flies in 2009!

Anyui River near Khabarovsk is swift stream with chum salmon spawning grounds. In April the ice in the areas with current melts, and it is possible to start flyfishing.
It is time when you can use skies, boat, ice-auger & flyrod on the same day. Ice-fishing did not bring success, but nymphing was good! There was a hatch of tiny stone-flies, but no surface activity of fish. We were catching Amur grayling & lenok (2 forms) with shrimp imitations near the bottom.
Amur grayling
Lenok (Siberian trout).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flies for catching cherry salmon (sakura sima)

The biggest cherry salmon you could catch in the Koppi River (mainland coast of the Sea of Japan). In this stream the species can reach 90 cm (3') and 9 kg (20 pounds)
Mikizha (invented by Guido Rahr III in 1993) was the best fly for catching cherry salmon in the Bolshaya River (south-west of Kamchatka Peninsula).
These simple imitations of salmon smolts on bottle type tubes were used in swift streams of the eastern part of Sakhalin Island (Langeri & Vengeri Rivers). During the downstream migration of the pink salmon smolts the best flies for all fish in the streams of the island were smolt imitations
This smolt imitation was used for catching cherry salmon, charrs, and Pacific redfin in small streams of the Krillion Peninsula (south-east of Sakhalin).
Black & Red Fly - a simple streamer tied out of synthetic materials. In the Koppi River (Sea of Japan) cherry salmon was biting rather big flies, mostly black and/or red ones. Lightly colored flies did not attract the fish at all.
Black-and-red GP on 2/0 hook was another good choice for the species in the Koppi River. Intruder in similar colors was working even in murky water, during the end of the spring flood.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Inya River (Sea of Okhotsk)

Inya River is 300 km long. It is flowing from a chain of big lakes at the altitude of 1000 m onto the Sea of Okhotsk. The lakes have glacier origin.
Outlet of the Inya River from the Hel-Degi Lake
Upper part of the "Lower Canyon" of the Inya River Lower Canyon
Inya is swift and has lots of log-jams. Its upper part is quite dangerous for rafting.
Camp of the Even raindeer herders
Dry fish (chum salmon and Dolly Varden charr).
The fish is prepared traditional Even method.
Storages of the Even raindeer herders. In such storages the belongings are safe from such animals as bear or volverene.
Sockeye salmon & Arctic grayling in the Etergen Lake
Diversity of fish in the Hel-Degi Lake: Arctic grayling, "big" form of charr, "small" form of charr, resident dwarf male of sockeye salmon.
Chum salmon at the spawning ground (female has black strip on the sides)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Diversity of Charrs in the Russian Far East

Charrs (genus Salvelinus) are salmonid fishes with very small scales. To the touch all charrs bear no scales; Russian name of this group "golets" means "naked". On the territory of the Russian Far East there are about ten different charr species. On the contrary to Pacific salmon charr can spawn several times during the life span, although some fish die after spawning. Anadromous charrs spawn and spend winter in fresh water, for 2-3 summer months they feed in salt water, not far from the sea shores. Fish from landlocked populations spend the whole life in lakes or rivers.
Arctic charr from the Mainopilgino Lake (south-eastern Chukotka)
Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) has huge range, including the whole Arctic Ocean Sea coast of Europe, Asia and North America. There are anadromous and also landlocked (lake-resident) forms of this species. Some fish biologists consider Arctic charr of the northeast Asia (Chukotka) to be a separate species - Salvelinus taranetzi.
Arctic charr from the Amguema River drainage (Chukotka). Two fish are lake-resident and one - sea-run.
Two forms of charr from the Ekityki Lake (Chukotka). Above - 2 predatory charr, below - 2 benthos-feeding charr.
Dolly Varden charr (ripe male & female) from the Inya R., Sea of Okhotsk
Dolly Varden charr (S. malma) is the most widespread and numerous charr in the world. Natural range of Dolly Varden is huge; it covers both Asian and American coast of the Pacific from about 45°N to the Bering Strait, and also the coast of the Arctic Ocean from Kolyma River in Asia to Mackenzie River in America.
3 species of anadromous charrs from the Yama River (Sea of Okhotsk): Dolly Varden (above), yellow-mouth charr (middle), and white-spotted charr (below).
Comparing with Dolly Varden, white-spotted charr (S. leucomaenis) is “warmth liking” species. This charr live only in Asia, from Kamchatka and Sea of Okhotsk to Japan. The northernmost population of the species was found in the upper part of the Penzhina River (63°N).
Yellow-mouth charr (S. Levanidovi) is anadromous fish;`it has small range and was found only in three river drainages of the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk. Yellow-mouth charr was not known the scientists until 1984.
Neiva or red charr (S. neiva) from the Korral lake.
Neiva is not big, brightly colored lake-resident fish; there are no anadromous or river-resident stocks of red charr. Neiva was discovered in the lakes of the Okhota River drainage. Similar charr forms were found in different clear lakes situated on the mainland coast of the Sea of Okhotsk.
"Big" deepwater form of charr from the Hel-Degi Lake (Inya River drainage)
"Small" charr from the Hel-Degi Lake.